I've just returned from a trip to Japan. While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit Kyoto Kakagu, a company that provide an excellent example of how to put skills to good use — and a nice contrast to the failure of Polaroid management's inability to save their company.
First, some background. If archaeologists dig up an old pot that's shattered, and they want to put it into a museum, someone has to reconstruct the pot and supply the missing pieces. When a museum wants to display model of an ancient building, someone has to create that model. And if a museum wants an exact replica of a valuable piece of sculpture, clay pot, fossil, meteorite, or document, someone needs to do that work. That was Kyoto Kakagu's business for many years. It's a fascinating spot to visit; I was quite jealous to see the workers handling clay pottery that was thousands of years old.
Here's the part that's relevant to this blog. A few years back, a customer approached Kyoto Kakagu with a request: could they please make a model of a human body for use in a medical school? Management had the foresight to realize that their skills in creating models for archeology could apply to medical models, and today Kyoto Kakagu supplies a wide variety of medical models. Small models of babies — ones with pulses and other medical responses — can train nurses how to correctly hold and care for infants. A human chest can be placed into a X-ray machine to emulate a patient with cancer in their lungs. Their latest full-size human model lets you listen to the heart, take blood pressure, check the eyes for proper pupil response, and record an EKG.
The lesson here is straightforward: your company's expertise may apply to other areas. In the book I discussed Polaroid, which despite a desperate need to find some way to keep your company relevant failed to find a modern use for their corporate skills as digital photography made the instant camera obsolete. Disaggregating your corporate skills from your current corporate business can open new horizons.